In all honesty, when my best friend suggested we spend Christmas in Ljubljana, my first response was, “Wait, what did you say?”
So with this awkward beginning to our vacation planning, you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was to eventually find ourselves in the capital of Slovenia, in the midst of a city that skillfully manipulates its many resources with more than ideal results.
Considered one of the safest national capitals in the world, one of its claims to fame is it has no claims to fame. A trip to Ljubljana is simply an exercise of complete cultural immersion and no stress – it is totally walkable, it is in the Eurozone, and it is more than affordable. Which, to me, spells out “perfect weekend getaway,” or a nice addition to an already busy travel itinerary with just a little space left.
Ljubljana has lots to give, so it really just depends on what you are looking for. Every city building seems to warrant a study in architecture, not to mention the Ljubljana’s landmark castle, which perches on a hill overlooking the city and sports a fantastic restaurant. There are a plethora of good local wines (only two or three euro per glass!), a fun yet casual nightlife (thanks to the local university), thermal pools, museums, and both local and international tasty treats to choose from. What more could you ask for?
To top it off, the heart of the city center hugs a picturesque river framed by weeping willows. Deciding where to spend an evening in Ljubljana is as simple as following the gentle curve of the river, which will take you by many of the popular bars and restaurants in the center. If you are indecisive, you can even zig-zag back across the river with the help of a series of bridges, seeming more like art pieces than something meant for practical use. Summer can’t come soon enough, when I plan to return to Ljubljana and spend a lazy Saturday afternoon sitting on a patio along the river, enjoying a long meal, and people watching.
My best friend Lena and I visited Ljubljana over Christmas, so our experience was distinctly holiday infused. Unbeknownst to us, Ljubljana seems to be ground zero for holiday decorations, with decorations in every corner of the city and an endless series of what could best be described as whimsically beautiful Christmas lights following the river which culminates in a Christmas market in the main square. I can say, in all my travels, I have never seen more imaginative Christmas decorations. Arriving on Christmas eve at 10pm, we had resigned ourselves to eating take-out pizza and going to bed at 11pm, and were instead whisked into the whirlwind and magic which is Ljubljana on Christmas eve, where the city center is the place to see and be seen. Families and friends meet in the center to enjoy the festivity along the river, mulled wine, tasty treats, and last-minute shopping at the market.
The only challenge with visiting Ljubljana is getting there. While it borders many countries: Italy, Croatia, Hungary, and Austria, existing conflicts in train travel between Hungary and Italy have led to a dearth of direct trains from either country. Your options are buses, planes, or trains from Austria or Croatia.
I couldn’t be prouder that I have come so far as not only being a proponent of making this city a destination in your European travel planning but also proudly letting the city’s name roll off my tongue: I heart lyoo-BLYAH-nah. 🙂
Slide show of my favorite Ljubljana photos